Game of the Day: Wednesday’s college football bowl betting preview

Birmingham Bowl

Game played at Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Auburn Tigers vs. Memphis Tigers (+3, 63)

BIRMINGHAM BOWL STORYLINES

1. Memphis will head into bowl season without the head coach that guided them into the College Football Playoff Rankings before a late-season swoon. Justin Fuente took the vacant head coaching job at Virginia Tech, and the Tigers brought in former Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell on a five-year contract to be the new coach, but interim coach Darrell Dickey will guide Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., against Auburn on Dec. 30. Dickey is expected to remain with the program as part of Norvell’s staff moving forward.

2. Auburn had big expectations heading into the season but ended up falling off the pace as Jeremy Johnson struggled early at quarterback and eventually lost the job before regaining it down the stretch. The junior threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more in a 56-34 win over Idaho on Nov. 21 that gained the team bowl eligibility but struggled again in a loss to Alabama the next week. Johnson threw only one of his seven interceptions on the season in the final four games.

3. Memphis will have the best quarterback on the field in senior Paxton Lynch, who might be the top quarterback taken in this spring’s NFL draft. Lynch threw for 28 touchdowns and three interceptions, with seven of those TDs coming on nine completions in a 63-0 victory over SMU in the regular-season finale. Lynch guided an offense that averaged 510.4 yards and 42.7 points.

TV: Noon ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY: Books opened Auburn as 2.5-point faves, but that has moved to -3. The total is down to 63 from the opening 64.

WEATHER: Temperatures in the high-50s with a 98 percent chance of thunderstorms.

TRENDS:

* Auburn Tigers are 0-8 ATS in their last eight non-conference games.
* Memphis Tigers are 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight vs. SEC.
* Under is 7-2-1 in Auburn Tigers last 10 Bowl games.
* Over is 4-1 in Memphis Tigers last 5 Bowl games.

CHEERLEADER WAR:


Belk Bowl

Game played at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (-6, 60)


BELK BOWL STORYLINES

1. A pair of potent offenses and dual-threat quarterbacks square off when Mississippi State takes on North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. Both teams average more than 400 total yards and 33 points per game, and their talented quarterbacks are the catalysts. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott has passed for 3,413 yards with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions while rushing for 541 yards and 10 more scores; N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett has rolled up 2,448 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions while adding 303 yards and five TDs on the ground. 

2. N.C. State should enjoy a de facto home-field advantage. The Wolfpack are playing a short distance from home and have 15 players from the Charlotte area, including TE/FB Jaylen Samuels (315 rushing yards, 7 TDs; 64 receptions, 599 yards, 7 TDs). It will be the third time the Wolfpack have played in the bowl, where they defeated Louisville 31-24 in 2011 and beat South Florida 14-0 in the 2005 game, then known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

3. Both coaches have enjoyed success in bowl games. Dan Mullen has MIssissippi State in its sixth bowl in seven years and has posted a 3-2 record, though the Bulldogs have lost two of their last three bowls – including a 49-34 loss to Georgia Tech in last year’s Orange Bowl. N.C. State’s Dave Doeren is 2-0 in bowl games, including a 34-27 win over UCF in last year’s St. Petersburg Bowl – his first postseason trip with the Wolfpack.

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY: Books opened Mississippi State as a 7-point fave, but that is now -6. The total is up to 60 from the opening 59.

WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid-60s with a 100 percent chance of thunderstorms. Wind will blow across the field at around seven mph.

TRENDS:

* Wolfpack are 7-0 ATS in their last seven non-conference games.
* Bulldogs are 0-4 ATS in their last four vs. ACC.
* Over is 4-0 in Wolfpack last four neutral site games.
* Over is 5-1 in Bulldogs last six non-conference games.

CHEERLEADER WAR:

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Game played at Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Louisville Cardinals (-4.5, 47)

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL STORYLINES

1. Texas A&M will have a new quarterback when it faces Louisville in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 in Nashville, Tenn. Sophomore Kyle Allen and freshman Kyler Murray, who combined for 2,896 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while splitting time this year, announced they were transferring out of Texas A&M as the Aggies began bowl preparations. Sophomore Jake Hubenak (a transfer from Blinn Junior College) is the only other Aggies quarterback to throw a pass this season.

2. The Cardinals, won five of their last six games to qualify coach Bobby Petrino for a school-record sixth bowl appearance, also used two starting quarterbacks this season. Dual-threat freshman Lamar Jackson led the Cardinals in rushing yards (734) and touchdowns (nine) in 11 appearances and six starts. Sophomore Kyle Bolin is a pocket-passer and threw for 1,154 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

3. The pressure will be on the two defenses to slow these offenses full of talented, young skill players. The Aggies rank third nationally in tackles for loss – led by Myles Garrett’s SEC-best 18.5 – and held teams to 161.2 passing yards. Devonte Fields had 19.5 tackles for loss while the Cardinals ranked 13th in total defense (323.4).

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY: Books opened Louisville as a 3-point dog but that has moved all the way to Louisville -4.5. The total has come down to 47 from the opening 50.5.

WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid-40s with a 38 percent chance of rain early on.

TRENDS:

* Aggies are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games overall.
* Cardinals are 6-2 ATS in their last eight vs. SEC.
* Under is 4-0 in Aggies last four games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in Cardinals last four games overall.

CHEERLEADER WAR:

Holiday Bowl

Game played at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

USC Trojans vs. Wisconsin Badgers (+3.5, 50.5)

1. One month after Clay Helton was hired as the permanent head coach at USC, he’ll experience his first bowl game when the Trojans meet Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on Dec. 30. Helton was hired Nov. 30, two days after USC beat rival UCLA to advance to the Pac-12 championship game, but the Trojans lost to Stanford and ended up in San Diego rather than at the coveted Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Helton fired several of his assistants in the week following his hiring, which could leave the Trojans vulnerable in certain areas.

2. If the Trojans hope to extend their all-time record to 7-0 against Wisconsin, they’ll need to find a way to protect quarterback Cody Kessler. USC has allowed 35 sacks this season, which is tied for eighth-most in the Pac-12, and the Badgers have a premier pass rusher in outside linebacker Joe Schobert. He has produced 18.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and forced five fumbles, which ties the single-season program record; he could turn it into a long night for Kessler.

3. Wisconsin hasn’t defeated a team with a winning record this season, losing a pair of nail-biters to Iowa and Northwestern, the teams that finished ahead of the Badgers in the West Division of the Big Ten. If they hope to get their first win against a team with a winning record, they’ll likely need another big game from running back Dare Ogunbowale, who carried the ball 33 times in the regular-season finale against Minnesota, totaling a career-high 155 yards and a touchdown. There’s also a possibility that injury-plagued but talented running back Corey Clement could be available, though he wasn’t practicing with the team earlier in the month, instead working with the strength and conditioning staff.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Trojans as 3-point faves, but that has moved to -3.5. The total remains at the opening number of 50.5.

WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid-50s under clear skies.

TRENDS:

* Trojans are 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Badgers are 1-5 ATS in their last six neutral site games.
* Over is 6-1-1 in Trojans last eight non-conference games.
* Under is 7-3 in Badgers last 10 games overall.

CHEERLEADER WAR:

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